The Blacker the Berry Draws Both Praise and Controversy (Review)

Kendrick Lamar’s newest song “The Blacker the Berry,” which he released a day after winning two Grammy’s, has been met with strong praise and strong criticism. Lamar’s new single, named after Wallace Thurman’s novel, has been lauded by some for bringing race back into the conversation of hip-hop as well as criticized for it’s comments about the black community.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Vibe said the song is “a call to stop the generational hatred infiltrating our young minds.” The article went on to say, “Not only is [Lamar] shining a light on the outsiders that choose to look down on the Black community through murky glasses, but points the finger back on his own people.”

In the song, Lamar calls out many stereotypes facing the black community such as eating watermelon and fried chicken or his large nose and lips.

“My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide
You hate me don’t you?
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture.”

Lamar also compares South African tribes to gangs in the US, saying:

“It’s funny how Zulu and Xhosa might go to war
Two tribal armies that want to build and destroy
Remind me of these Compton Crip gangs that live next door.”

He goes on to call himself a hypocrite several times throughout the composition.

The song has been criticized by many who feel like some of Lamar’s comments could be considered respectability politics. They believe that Lamar is placing blame on the victims of racism rather than the systems of racism which exist in our society, especially towards the end of his song with the lines such as:

“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?

When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?

Many were surprised by Lamar’s comments and thought that the ending took away from the rest of the song. Lamar, a young black man who grew up in Compton, comparing gang violence in the black community to Trayvon Martin’s murder was unexpected.

Stereo Williams of The Daily Beast said “The Blacker the Berry” is “great song” that’s “derailed by a misguided intention…If there is a hypocrisy, doesn’t it fall on those who would use gang violence to silence public outrage against oppression while ignoring the fact that the gang violence is also a product of that same racist oppression?”

Williams’ words echo the sentiments of many that Lamar was feeding into the black-on-black violence argument that is brought up when people speak on inter-racial violence.

Buzzfeed’s Joel Anderson was more blunt with his feelings.

The last line of the new Kendrick joint is the same jazz Darren Wilson supporters were spitting at protesters.

— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) February 9, 2015

Author Michael Chabon, who annotated the song for RapGenius, suggested that the final lines push listeners to “consider the possibility that ‘hypocrisy’ is, in certain situations, a much more complicated moral position than is generally allowed, and perhaps an inevitable one.”

Lamar admits the song is about his struggle in regards to his feelings on race and that may be why he describes himself as a hypocrite as well as why he is conflicted and asking himself these questions.


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